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Oct 15, 2006 05:58 PM

Fresno's Growing Dining Scene (and Visalia)

The business section in the paper a week ago Saturday Oct. 7) gave a pretty comprehensive account of new and upcoming places in the area. They mentioned the new chains of course (Cheeseflake Factory, Lemming's Stake Horse, and PF KaChing's) but it was Mama Lo's Soul Food Restaurant that was featured with a big color photo. They've been opened since last spring and serve BBQ, fried chicken, fish, black-eyed peas, chitlin's, and a great peach cobbler. 925 F St. in Chinatown.

Others noted were:

Lantana (Riverview center at Friant & Ft. Washington) has already received less than sparkling reports here, the mention in the article is focussed on their Ice Cloud seafood platter ($60/120 for sml/lrg), lobster, colossal shrimp, jumbo Alaskan king crab legs, and fresh oysters with dry-ice on top to make it smoke.

Au Lac in the Tower District on Van Ness, probably in the little business area half way to McKinley since they mention the popularity with the FCC crowd. All vegetarian menu, meat-free and dairy-free happy burger (Au Lac = happiness in Vietnamese), lemon grass veggie chicken and garlic veggie chicken. Soy and whey based meat substitutes fill in for chicken or fish.

Wasabi, at First and Herndon also opened last spring serves OMG sushi rolls for 2-3 people.

Additional openings or about to open (chains omitted), listed by location were:

Fig Garden Village: Tomodachi Japanese Grill, Tien Ju Chinese, Pangea, and Belana. Pangea was written up in the paper early this year with a projected opening in late summer/early fall, that would have small plates fusion cuisine and wine flights.

Park Place (Palm & Nees): It's a Grind, Juice Zone, and Deli Delicious

Village at Granite Park (Cedar & Hampton Way): The Shack, southern BBQ and Cajun food.

Riverview (Friant & Ft. Washington): Flamenco Tapas of Spain and Bently's Bistro (Sakanaya, Star of Siam, and Dirty Olive have been open for a while)

In the article earlier this year Casa Mariani II was listed as taking over the Vitucci's space at Herndon & Cedar with Chef Tony Mariani (from Bari) and wife Marlena (daughter of Giulia Paolilli of Giulia's) dishing up southern Italian cuisine.

Visalia changes includeTommy's, the New York Deli, and Fugazzi's, one that sticks out and might be worth a try is Crawdaddy's of Visalia billed as Louisiana cooking, Main and Bridge streets.

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  1. PB, I've done Tommy's in Visalia twice since it opened. It should be a short list spot for you also down there. A sample menu is under "food" at

    Visalia has seen a chain invasion the last 2 years as a new shopping complex opened. Some people I know there are concerned for the local restaurants so anytime we can we go that way and support someone doing something different.

    1 Reply
    1. re: FresnoFacts

      Thanks for the link to Tommy's, FF. The menu looks great and I've had them at the top of my list for a while (probably since you first mentioned them). I don't get down Visalia way too often but I may just have to drum up an excuse. Agree totally with fighting the chain epidemic every chance we get.

    2. PB: I can always count on you for exciting news about the Fresno scene! I am lucky enough to get to that area a couple of times a year on business. Fresno Facts: that Tommy's place in Visalia looks terrific. Visalia is one of my stops on business and I will make Tommy's a sure stop when I am there-- I would love to support something other than a chain resto. Thanks to both of you for some new places to try!

      2 Replies
      1. re: dimsumgirl

        Hey dsg, as long as our little dedicated pack of local hounds is around, we'll make sure you never have to eat at a chain resto again here in the central valley. Besides, you always come up with a few gems for us when we're Bay bound.

        1. re: PolarBear

          It's going to be awhile (a few months away) until I get down there to Fresno, Sanger, Visalia and Lindsay but I would love to meet up for a Fresno chowdown, maybe at Tommy's when I am there. Let me know if anyone is interested!

      2. A few years ago I dined at a very good French restaurant in Visalia... I can't remember the exact name but it was something like the The Wine Press, The Olive Press, The Olive Mill etc.,... had good Sweetbreads with an interesting sauce & other delectables... wines were fine too.

        A very respectable place that could survive in a bigger city without much problems.

        1 Reply
        1. FYI, I found Crawdaddy's website. Incomplete at this point (it officially opens Friday) so no menus loaded yet but we'll keep our eyes on it.

          Also in Visalia, the old Radisson will finish its conversion to a 4 star Marriott in December. The restaurant is supposed to be converted to "California Cuisine with Asian fusion". We'll see if that means anything or if its just a fancy name for hotel food.

          1. You beat me to a discussion of Casa Mariani's!

            I had dinner there on Thursday. It was delcious and the service was very friendly. I was impressed by the wide selection on the menu, prices, ambience, and most of all, the quality of the food. I had a pasta dish made with fresh pasta, tomatoes, basil, garlic, and I substituted prawns for the sausage. It was a large portion, easily enough for lunch the next day. It was $14, I think, and was preceded by a refreshing, interesting salad of romaine topped with chopped cucumber, apple, orange, and other veggies in a light vinaigrette. They also served antipasti in four small dishes after the salad- some lightly battered and fried eggplant and zucchini were among the offerings.

            A friend ordered the eggplant, which is layered with ground beef and a layer of small pasta noodles. It's not your mama's eggplant! She was eyeing a seafood pasta dish but had to go with the eggplant, her usual favorite. Her husband ordered pasta with veal meatballs. It looked delicious. The restaurant was very accommodating of little ones, who were served a simple pizza soon after arriving and before our dinner.

            My only complaint? I prefer sliced Italian bread to rolls.

            All in all, the food was much better than any Italian I've had in a long time (even on my trips to SoCal), except for Parma which is a different style.

            Casa Mariani
            Herndon and Cedar, next to Save-Mart